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European railway agency

The European Railway Agency is a driving force in the policy for modernising the European railway sector. Mutually incompatible technical and security regulations in the twenty-seven Member States are a major handicap to the development of the railway sector. The Agency’s task is to gradually align technical regulations and to establish methods and common safety objectives for the whole of Europe’s railway network.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 881/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 establishing a European Railway Agency [see amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The efficiency of rail transport in the EU is of crucial importance. However, services offered by railways must be improved in order to equal the level of services in other modes of transport. Rail policy is still too often centred on national considerations rather than on the needs of the citizens.

The railway industry in Europe is characterised by a lack of international technical regulation. The creation of an integrated rail area entails putting in place monitored common technical regulations. Given the difficulties encountered by Member States in formulating common solutions for safety and rail interoperability, it has become clear that the most appropriate instrument for creating this area is an Agency.

The main objectives of the European Railway Agency are to:

  • increase the safety of the European railway system;
  • improve the level of interoperability of the European railway system;
  • contribute towards establishing a European certification system of vehicle maintenance workshops;
  • contribute towards setting up a uniform training and recognition system for train drivers.

Safety of the railway system

The Agency must provide the necessary technical assistance to implement Directive 2004/49/EC on safety on Europe's railways. Its main tasks will be to:

  • prepare and propose common safety methods and targets;
  • draw on the support of groups of experts in the sector placed under its responsibility;
  • consult social partners and organisations representing rail freight customers and passengers at European level;
  • ensure safety performance is continuously monitored;
  • produce a public report every two years;
  • keep a database on railway safety;
  • ensure the networking of and cooperation between national rail safety and investigation authorities, with the aim of encouraging the exchange of experience and developing a common rail safety culture.

Interoperability of the railway system

The interoperability of the European railway system aims at rendering the various national rail systems of the Member States compatible by removing or reducing the technical barriers.

The Agency is therefore responsible for improving the level of interoperability of the European railway system. To this end, it must organise and manage work aimed at creating and updating the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs). The TSIs are technical specifications which aim at ensuring that the essential requirements of Directive 2008/57/EC on the interoperability of the European railway system are met.

Furthermore, the Agency publishes a report every two years on the progress made regarding interoperability.

Vehicle maintenance

Vehicle maintenance is an important part of rail safety. For this reason, the Agency is responsible for formulating recommendations to the Commission, specifically regarding the certification system of entities responsible for maintaining carriages and other rail vehicles.

The Agency is also responsible for producing a report on the implementation of this certification system.

Railway personnel

The training and skills of train drivers are important elements both for rail safety and for the interoperability of the European railway system. The Agency therefore also has the mission of contributing towards harmonising the vocational skills of train drivers. Consequently, the work of the Agency also comes under the framework of the Directive relating to the certification of train drivers in the EU.

The Agency must cooperate with the competent authorities in particular, in order to ensure the interoperability of the licence registers and the certificates given to train drivers, to assess the development of train driver certification and to produce a report on the improvements which could be made.

Organisation

The European Railway Agency comprises an Administrative Board which meets at least twice a year. Its main duties are to adopt the annual work programme and the Agency’s general report. The Administrative Board comprises representatives from each Member State, the Commission and six categories of professionals from the sector: railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, railway industry, worker unions, passengers and freight customers.

Furthermore, the Agency is led by a Chairperson appointed by the Administrative Board. The principal mission of the Chairperson is to prepare and implement the work programme. The Chairperson is also responsible for managing the budget of the Agency.

The European Railway Agency does not have decision-making powers as such, but it can present opinions, recommendations and proposals to the Commission. It is independent, but works in close cooperation with experts in the field.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 881/2004

1.5.2004

-

OJ L 164, 30.4.2004

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1335/2008

1.1.2009

-

OJ L 354, 31.12.2008

Last updated: 03.12.2010
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